SOCI832: Overview: Research Methods


Field, A., Miles, J., and Field, Z. (2012). Discovering statistics using R. Sage publications.

  • Chapter 1: Why is my evil lecturer forcing me to learn statistics?


Theory testing
Conceptualisation and operationalisation
Levels of measurement
Scales and indexes
Reliability and validity

Lesson 2.1: An introduction to research methods

Learning Objectives

By the end of this class, students should be able to:

  1. Identify the theory being tested in an academic paper.
  2. Distinguish between theoretical frameworks (like religions), theoretical explanations (complex, but subject to evidence and argument), and hypotheses (statements which can test one prediction of theory).
  3. Identify the units of analysis and the variables in a social science analysis
  4. Identify the dependent variable, independent variables, and control variables in an analysis
  5. Identify the conceptualisation of a variable, and the operationalisation of a variable, and to suggest alternative ways that a particular variable could be conceptualised or operationalised differently.
  6. To be able to state what level of measurement a variable is measured at, particularly with respect to the categorisations of: categorical, binary, ordinal, continuous (or interval).
  7. Identify a scale or index in an academic paper. Explain the advantages of a scale or index.
  8. Search the internet and academic databases and find scales or indexes in the academic literature for a particular concept.
  9. Explain in everyday language what reliability and validity are, with examples.


  • What is research methods, why does it matter, and how does it relate to statistics?
  • How do I distinguish between a theoretical framework, a theoretical explanation, and a hypothesis?
  • How do I identify the units of analysis and the variables in a study?
  • How do I distinguish between the dependent variable, independent variables, and control variables?
  • How do I properly conceptualise a variable?
  • How do I properly operationalise a variable?
  • How can I tell if a variable is measured as a categorical, binary, ordinal, or continuous (or interval) variable?
  • How do I make a scale or index? How do I identify them in an academic paper?
  • How do I find a good (validated) scale or index in the academic literature?
  • How do I know if my variable or scale or index is reliable and/or valid?

Lesson 2.2: An example

Practice Exercise

  • Can you identify the following concepts in our model/demonstration article:
    • theory & hypotheses
    • units of analysis and variable
    • dependent variable, independent variables, control variables
    • conceptualisation of a variable
    • operationalisation of a variable
    • one of each type of variable: categorical, binary, ordinal, continuous (or interval)
    • a scale or index
    • the source for the scale or index
    • evidence the scale, index, or other variables are reliable and valid

Lesson 2.3: Finding an article and data for your assignment


  • What type of article and dataset is required for the main assignment?
  • How to find articles and datasets for the main assignment?
  • How to identify good and bad candidates for articles/datasets?

Practice Exercise

  • Follow the instructions in Lesson 2.3 and find an article and dataset for your assignment
  • Write 50 - 100 words on why this is a good article and dataset (see criteria for good article and dataset)
  • Identify this week’s concepts in your article/dataset